I don’t know if it’s bad form to begin by stating the obvious, but there really is no digital retail success story greater than Amazon’s. The figures lay it down bare – so let’s take a quick look at them:
- Over 304 million active customer accounts worldwide
- 171.83 million unique monthly visitors to Amazon sites
- 230,800 employees
- 20% year-over-year revenue growth (in 2014)
- $45.73 billion brand value
Wow. Jaw-dropping figures indeed.
Although, what is perhaps most remarkable is that they are not at all surprising. We have all heard of Amazon, and I’d be willing to bet my Kindle that each and every one of you who is reading this blog will have bought something from the site before, or at least know 10 others who have.
The popularity of Amazon is nothing short of phenomenal, and somehow this gargantuan e-tailer has managed to muscle its way into practically every aspect of our lives – from the books on our shelves to the devices in our pockets and the parts in our cars.
The question has to be– how on earth did it do this?
Well, in truth the story of Amazon’s success is down to many things – but one thing in particular that it’s got right time and time again over the years is its handling of social media, which indeed it seemed to master even before such a thing truly existed.
Let’s dig a little deeper to illuminate this point…
Driving Customer Engagement At Every Level
We’ll begin by considering Amazon’s reviews system.
Online customer reviews are practically synonymous with Amazon. Indeed, the garnering of buyer reviews has always been part of the Amazon strategy. The use of reviews is promoted right throughout every visitor’s experience of the site, both before and after purchase.
Every item that’s listed on Amazon has a star-rating – as awarded by fellow users – and is normally accompanied by numerous reviews left voluntarily by other buyers of the same product. Buyers, incidentally, can also leave reviews of sellers.
Reviews have of course been critical for the Amazon model – buyers cannot touch or test a product before they commit to the purchase, so customer reviews have always been the most important form of accountability and sign of quality for online customers who would otherwise just have to take the seller at his/her word.
But, equally important, is the fact that reviews generate genuine consumer engagement with the platform. Indeed, the highly active customer reviews columns found all over Amazon could almost be described as a consumer-driven social network in its own right. Customers get to know their favorite sellers and engage with them. They also get to know their favorite reviewers and trust their views, star-ratings and recommendations. To make product reviews even more useful to customers, Amazon has enabled community moderation by letting customers vote to measure the usefulness and relevance of the reviews. Amazon also enabled discussions that let shoppers ask follow-up questions directly to the reviewer. And of course, the Amazon algorithm is in constant state of up-sell – ‘Customers who viewed/bought this also viewed/bought that’, we are notified at practically every turn.
And all of this engenders true interaction with the Amazon platform. Indeed, it’s more than just an online retail site, it’s a community that Amazon has been nurturing for over 20 years.
And so it’s no surprise that when social media took off in the past decade or so, Amazon knew exactly how to play the online community game to its advantage.
Amazon On Social Media
Almost exclusively posting product promotions across its various social networks, Amazon is able to drive more sales than any other online merchant. Here’s how it’s done…
Amazon currently has over 26.6 million likes on its Facebook page. An incredible figure, but if you take a quick scroll down its news feed you can see why. Amazon replies to a staggering amount of comments left on its posts, and it does so quickly, politely, and, if appropriate, throws in a little humor.
When someone asks a question, Amazon answers it. If someone expresses a frustration, a response is quick and helpful. Amazon creates and contributes to conversations, which is imperative for brand success on social media. Indeed, in keeping with the social aspect of Amazon’s social media efforts, customers with Facebook-connected accounts will see product reviews written by their Facebook connections and products that their connections have put on their Amazon Wish Lists.
Promotions-wise, Amazon also uses Facebook to highlight products, and offers date-related coupons and discounts to encourage sales. When Mother’s Day is just around the corner, the Facebook page becomes awash with gift ideas and discount coupons to purchase them – followers, who were likely going to buy a gift online anyway, would be foolish to look elsewhere.
Amazon’s Twitter campaign is similarly heavy on promotions and of course engagement with customers.
But Amazon has an ace up its sleeve here. If you see a product feature on Twitter and there is an Amazon code included, there is a way for you to add that item to your Amazoncart immediately by replying with #AmazonCart. It’s this sort of convenience and innovation that makes Amazon’s social game top draw.
Pinterest for Amazon is essentially an extension of its main online store. Pinterest is of course the one social media site where a significant percentage of users go to browse for purchase ideas. But when they find a Pin from Amazon, they can simply click on it and are taken straight to a page where they can add the item to theirs hopping cart. It’s simply adding yet another layer of convenience for its social media customers.
Amazon has always believed in a thriving and engaged community, even before the advent of social media. But now with the likes of Facebook et al providing new communities to be engaged with, Amazon’s key to success is to offer its products on all channels, and continue to encourage conversation, engagement and discovery amongst its following. As Wade Gerten, CEO and co-founder of social marketing vendor Fluid puts it, “Amazon believes social discovery is the most important aspect of social commerce,” and indeed its social strategies facilitate these discoveries which drives more sales right across the social media spectrum.
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About John Waldron: John Waldron is a technology and business writer for markITwrite digital content agency, based in Cornwall, UK. He writes regularly across all aspects of marketing and tech, including SEO, social media, FinTech, IoT, apps and software development.